A community-owned leisure facility in County Clare has become the first of its kind in Ireland to establish a High Performance Academy to support training and give financial aid to promising young local athletes.
Shannon Swimming & Leisure Centre, in association with Clare Sports Partnership, has established the Shannon High Performance Academy which awards places to young sports men and women based on outstanding past performances and strong evidence of future achievements.
The 10 local athletes inducted into the Academy include an international basketball, mountain biker, kickboxing champion, long distance runner, international soccer player, Taekwon-Do black belt holder, rising star of women’s golf, race walking record holder and two intercounty hurlers.
Launching the High Performance Academy, Olympic and World Championships medallist Sonia O’Sullivan said: “Aspiring young sports men and women face numerous challenges as they set out to fulfil their potential not least of which is the cost of training, dietary requirements, travelling to events and accommodation.”
“The fact that the 10 qualifying local sportspersons and their families have been relieved of the cost of membership of a state-of-the-art gym, swimming pool, steam room and sauna together with the provision of specialist advice on nutrition mentoring and other supports will assist them greatly,” she added.
Praising the partnership between the Clare Sports Partnership and Shannon Leisure Centre, the Cobh native said she hoped the initiative would act as a model and example for other communities in how “to help young people achieve their dreams in a constructive and positive way.”
Eavan McCarthy of the Shannon Swimming & Leisure Centre explained that the primary aim of the High Performance Academy is to give talented young people in the local community the opportunity of developing their sporting career by offering the highest standards in coaching, training, nutrition, strength and conditioning advice, while also going to school or college and living in the locality.
She continued: “By combining sports participation without the added pressure of financing gym and pool memberships, a safety net is provided for the student. It is our intention to develop a sustainable programme whereby the individual is also provided with financial support and encouraged through judicious balancing of the time available to ensure that neither academic nor sporting interests are compromised.”
“The Clare Sports Partnership and Clare County Council, as well as our voluntary Board of Directors fully supported the proposal which helped bring it to fruition.. We are also grateful to Clare Local Development Company (CLDC) for providing us with the necessary LEADER funding to equip the gym facilities to the standard required by elite athletes,” Ms. McCarthy concluded.
Athletes inducted into the Shannon High Performance Academy:
– Race Walker Gearoid McMahon (14) from Stonehall, near Newmarket on Fergus is the reigning Under 15 Indoor and Outdoor All Ireland Champion and National Record Holder. He is also the current All Ireland School’s Junior Champion and England AAA’s 3km Champion.
– Golfer Lisa O’Shea (15) is a student at St Patrick’s Comprehensive Shannon has been playing the sport since she was just 2 years of age. She has been capped for the Munster Interprovisional girls U-18 team on four occasions, while she received her first cap for the Ladies Senior Interprovisional this year.
– Clare minor hurler star Aaron Shanagher (17), a pupil of St Caimin’s Shannon, is one of the rising stars of Clare hurling. He scored 3-6 against Kerry and 1-13 against Tipperary in this year’s Championship.
– Basketballer Tommy Walsh (15), a native of Sixmilebridge, received his first Irish international cap for basketball against Scotland in Neptune Stadium Cork in June 2014. He plays for his school St Patrick’s Comprehensive and for Celtics Basketball Club in Limerick.
– Long distance track and cross country athlete, Karl Fitzmaurice (19) recently graduated from St. Patrick’s Comprehensive School. His highest ranking was 1st in the National U-19 3000m Steeplechase. Karl, whose PB/handicap is 9:02, has targeted representing Ireland at the European Junior Cross Country Championships as well as comepting in the 10000m at the 2024 or 2028 Olympic Games.
– Soccer player Sabrina McCarthy (15), a 4th year student in St Caimin’s Secondary School Shannon, played with the Munster U-15 school girls in 2013 and received her Cap for the Irish U-15 School Girls in 2014. She is aiming to make the girls U-16 Irish panel later his year.
– Kickboxer Liam Alford (14), a 3rd year student at St Patrick’s Comprehensive Shannon, is fast becoming known as one of the best Junior fighters in Ireland. He is the Irish National WKA Junior Champion and Irish National ISKA Junior Champion (14-18 years) at -55 Kgs, making him the undisputed Irish Champion. In 2013 Liam travelled to Italy representing Ireland at the Unified World Kickboxing Championships and took home Bronze in the -55Kgs category.
– Mountain biker James Hanrahan is a Leaving Cert student at St Patrick’s Comprehensive and native of Newmarket on Fergus. The reigning Munster Junior Champion’s highest ranking was 4th in the Junior All Ireland 2014 and 2nd in the European Marathon Championships 2014. His long term ambition is to become National Champion, race internationally in the World Cup circuit, and race in the Olympics.
– Clare and Wolfe Tones na Sionna minor hurler Ben O’Gorman (18 is a Leaving Cert student in St Caimin’s Shannon. He starred for Clare in their 2014 Minor Hurling Championship campaign.
– Joanne Potter from Clarecastle is a third year student in St Caimin’s Shannon, took up Taekwon-Do 10 years ago and received her 1st Degree black belt in June 2013. At the 2013 World Taekwon-Do Championships in Spain she won Gold as a member of the Junior Ladies Team in sparring and Gold as a member of the Junior Ladies Team in the team patterns. Joanne won SIlver in the 2014 European Taekwon-Do Championships in the -55 kilo sparring in Riccione, Italy. In October 2014 Joanne will travel to Budapest, Hungary for the European Cup in preparation for the World Taekwon-Do Championships in Venice, Italy in May 2015.
For more visit www.shannonleisurecentre.ie.